While it wasn’t the train smash that everyone had been anticipating, Chaos Walking squandered a lot of potential for a new blockbuster YA franchise.

Chaos Walking
Now showing in cinemas
3/5 Stars
In a colony world in the near future, Todd Hewitt has been brought up to believe that a viral germ has killed all the women and unleashed Noise, the special ability to read people’s and animals’ minds. Later, he comes upon a patch of silence and soon discovers the source of the silence: a girl named Viola Eade.
Few films come out of eight-year development hell and reshoots to rave reviews – burdened by too many cooks and no clear vision. That pretty much summarises the dystopian sci-fi film Chaos Walking starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley. Based on an award-winning series of children’s books, it’s a story that pits men against women and explores the extreme consequences of toxic masculinity and the importance of communication. Unfortunately, it was unable to live up to its promising potential – through no fault of its cast – and blunders its way through rigid character development and an anti-climactic ending.
It’s set in a men-only settler town on a new world, their thoughts streaming through the air unfiltered and labelled as The Noise. Todd Hewitt (Holland) was one of the first born on the planet, struggling to keep his Noise under control. He has never seen a woman before – until a space ship crashlands near his home with its only survivor Viola (Ridley). Her arrival sparks a series of events that leads Todd to discover the truth about his home and his past.
To start with, the concept of unfiltered thoughts is already a difficult concept to translate to screen, although I think they did the best that they could with what they had, and it must have been insanely difficult for the cast to react to these thoughts only added in post-production. Surprisingly, the depiction of The Noise isn’t the real downfall of this film – its shoddy script and lack of real direction for the characters plays havoc on the audience’s interest in the story.
It’s even worse when you consider that the script’s writing credit goes to the original author of the books himself, Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls), plus it has gone through an unending series of rewrites starting with Charlie Kaufman (already an odd choice). He somehow failed to adapt what made his books critically acclaimed into something that would work on the big screen and was unable to give his characters that spark of life. Also, shockingly, the Chaos Walking series is aimed at children – not something you’d realise based on the film’s violence and profanity.
Holland and Ridley, however, worked with what they had, and that, I think they did brilliantly. Holland brought that inherent boyish charm, innocence and humour to the role, although I don’t feel they used his talents to their full extent. As Viola, Ridley also played to her strengths as a woman that refuses to be controlled, and they had just enough of a spark between them to keep you watching.
But where it fails dismally is the villains, played by the usually frightening Mads Mikkelsen as the power-hungry mayor and David Oyelowo as the mad preacher who believes women have no souls due to their lack of Noise. This film’s themes are rooted in gender issues, and the violence men perpetrate against women when they can’t handle being seen as weak. The way their sexist motivations came across was incredibly lacklustre, their chauvinism just too obvious and lacking that subtlety of microaggressions that women know all too well in real life. Their behaviour and what they say didn’t correlate at all, making their hate more unbelievable, depending too much on exposition.
In the end, I didn’t hate Chaos Walking and enjoyed watching the two leads bundu-bash their way through a convoluted plot that didn’t lead anywhere. It’s clear they were pushing for another YA franchise, but unfortunately didn’t give the audience enough space to fall in love with the characters first so that they can’t wait for the next instalment. Instead, it’s just another unmemorable franchise that was dead on arrival.